December 3, 2023

The limited hours for the lab at the South Similkameen Health Centre aren’t likely to change soon as staffing continues to be an issue across Interior Health.

After an initial set of cuts came to service hours in 2022, IH announced in February that services would be further limited to those issued by physicians and people facing hardship to travel to other communities.

In speaking with Interior Health’s CEO Sue Brown on June 29, she acknowledged the difficulties that the service cuts have on people and pointed to the allowances for people who need their routine blood work and for the people who face hardship with transportation.

The difficulty, according to Brown, is the regional shortage of staff and the priority of certain facilities.

“The reason we’re struggling is Penticton here has a challenge with lab staff, and it’s an absolute necessity to have lab capability readily available in the hospital for people that are in the critical care unit, emergency, or who need work pre-surgery,” said Brown. “So having those services robust here in Penticton is absolutely critical for us.”

Back in December of 2022, IH had stated they had plans to use new hiring practices to meet the staff requirements for the South Similkameen Health Centre.

New hiring practices was brought up again by Brown, with efforts to be innovative without negatively impacting the care people receive.

“We’ve put in a new discipline, we are piloting this on behalf of the province, to hire phlebotomists,” said Brown. “All they do is take blood, which frees up the time for the medical lab assistants and technologists to do only the pieces they can do.”

People who don’t have a physician’s direction to the Keremeos lab will thus still have to rely on booking appointments for lab work either at the Penticton Regional Hospital or the South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver.

Those appointments can be made online at or by calling 1 877-870-4756. The call centre is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the weekends, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on stat holidays.

Alternatively, further lab collection options are available through Valley Medical Laboratory with two locations in Penticton and one in Osoyoos.

“We are still strained,” said Brown. “But we will make every effort to enhance the hours available in Keremeos as soon as possible.”

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